Treating Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer in both men and women in America. The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be nearly 150,000 new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed in 2019. It’s also expected to cause over 50,000 deaths this year. This estimate includes both cancer found in the colon and in the rectum. When it comes to treating colorectal cancer, you have options. Let’s take a look at the different methods of treatment available for colorectal cancer vary by stage and how each works.

Stage 0 Colorectal Cancer

Stage 0 refers to a colorectal cancer that hasn’t progressed to grow beyond the lining of the colon. In this case, surgery is usually the only treatment necessary and can be accomplished by removing the polyp (growth) or removing the area with cancer during a colonoscopy. Your colorectal cancer specialist may elect to remove part of the colon if your tumor—or cancerous growth—is too large to be removed by itself.

Stage I Colorectal Cancer

During Stage I Colorectal cancer, the cancer has grown beyond the lining of the colon and into the colon wall or nearby lymph nodes. In this case, the polyp is still removed by surgery or for cancers not in a polyp, you will need a partial colectomy - a surgery to remove the section of colon affected by the cancer, as well as possibly the lymph nodes nearby.

Stage II Colorectal Cancer

Again, with Stage II Colorectal cancer, you may only need surgery to correct the issue. In some cases, your doctor may recommend chemotherapy after surgery if he or she believes you are at a higher risk of the cancer returning. Your doctor will discuss the pros and cons of chemotherapy with you.

Stage III Colorectal Cancer

Stage III Colorectal cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, but has not necessarily spread into other portions of your body. For Stage III colorectal cancer treatment, your doctor will remove a section of the colon as well as the affected lymph nodes and likely recommend post-op chemotherapy.

Stage IV Colorectal

Stage IV colorectal cancer has progressed beyond the colon or rectum and spread into other areas of the body including organs or tissue. Stage IV cancers are considered very advanced cancers. Colorectal cancer most often spreads to a person’s liver, but may also spread to the lungs, brain, or the lining of the abdomen. In this case, surgery is unlikely to cure this type of cancer, but surgical procedures to remove affected areas like the liver or lungs may help you live longer. Chemotherapy is usually prescribed before and after surgical efforts. Radiation therapy can also be used to help relieve symptoms of your cancer like pain. With stage IV cancer, radiation is unlikely to cure it, but it may help alleviate symptoms for people living with this type of progressed cancer.  

The key to beating colorectal cancer in its earliest stages is to undergo regular screening to test for colorectal cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that both men and women over the age of 45 be screened for colorectal cancer. Protect yourself from this deadly form of cancer with early detection methods.